Monday, June 27, 2011

She Said: Origins 2011

Hello! My name is Sarah and I'm the wife of DocStout, the author of The Unemployed Geek. I've been a gamer for over 17 years, my gaming experience largely encompassing D&D, Pinnacle Entertainment's Savage Worlds, and Paradigm Concept's Living Arcanis/Chronicles of the Shattered Empires. I'm also a published author and editor, with over a decade under my belt in working with some of the best and brightest the gaming industry has to offer.

Origins has always held a special place in my heart. It was where I first met my husband and many, many more dear friends. It was also where I first learned about and played in something called a "Battle Interactive." It was where I got Adrian Paul to sign my sling after I dislocated my shoulder (short version: a 325lb ex-Marine should not playfully try to put a 125lb woman in an armlock). I got a hug and cheek pinch from Don S. Davis "for being cute" and had a long chat with Teryl Rothery about being a female in a male-dominated industry. Every year, I manage to come back with tales of valor, of pranks played, of hilarity, and of fun times had.

This year was no exception. I'll start off with the good stuff.

The Good

The Drive
With the majority of gamers in the U.S. being centered across the Midwest, it makes sense for the two biggest conventions to be located there. (The other, of course, is GenCon in Indianapolis, IN.) For those of you who despise the TSA/Airlines, and wish to bring an entire household full of gaming books - you know who you are - driving is about the only reasonable method in getting to Columbus, OH. And if you are part of the majority, that drive is not too terribly long, thankfully. There is only so much Dramamine in the world. I can't be the only person in the world that gets carsick while reading in a moving car. And being unable to read gaming books while on your way to a gaming convention?

Think this, but with books.
The Soft Drinks
I know my husband has mentioned Mountain Dew Pitch Black before. I, like him, have sacrificed virgins in the name of the Old Ones in order for it to return to us. Or something like that. We thought we'd be clever and pick up an 8-pack here and a 12-pack there, slowly hoarding it, as we knew its time on our mortal plane was short. But, damnit, if everyone else didn't think of that same plan. You're lucky if you can find a single bottle of this stuff in Chicago.

In our pre-convention grocery run, we happened down the drink aisle. Just as my husband was saying, "I doubt they have Pitch Black," we looked down. Our eyes bugged. There, on the shelf, looking forlorn and unloved, were two 12-packs of ambrosia itself.

The Not-So-Soft Drinks
I'm not sure if any of you are familiar with Irish liquors outside of Bailey's or maybe Caroline's. A friend of mine, Matt, has a definite love of a particular Irish liquor called Celtic Crossing, and since he brought a bottle with him to Origins, I felt I also needed to share the awesomeness with you all. Think scotch, but sweeter.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot
When you've been gaming for a long time, especially in an environment like an on-going RPG, you meet a great many people. A big reason people go to these conventions is to catch up on old friends and make new ones. Which, I suppose, is ironic considering the stereotype of the anti-social gamer. The games we play are, at their heart, socially-based. You will make more friends than you can remember. (You might make enemies too, but that's another story.) Which is why, when you go to a convention, you might catch yourself looking at someone in the face, then your eyes will flicker down to the name on their badge and then back up. I think it's a tradition now.

I'm not looking at your boobs, I'm trying to read your badge.
The New Arcanis

I'll do my best to not go into too much detail with this one, as my husband will be writing a later article reviewing the new Chronicles of the Shattered Empires (CSE) system. Needless to say, many man-hours were spent tweaking, editing, and playtesting the book that would become the basis for Arcanis.

Arcanis has, and probably always will, go by what's called a Hard Point-Soft Point story arc. Hard Points mean the story and scenario contained within a particular adventure directly impacts the main story arc that is planned. It is HIGHLY preferred that they be played in order. Soft Points, on the other hand, do not directly affect the story. They can be played at any time and in any order.

The Hard Points that premiered at Origins were penned by the master storyteller himself, Henry Lopez. They were story and role-play heavy, with a small amount of combat, as is Henry's M.O. I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us Arcaniacs.

One of the Soft Points we played at Origins was GM'ed for us by the author himself, Tony Nijssen, a fantastic guy and great storyteller in his own write. (Write. Get it? I made a funny.) If you have not played Ancient Secrets Left Unspoken yet, I highly recommend it.

The Role-Playing Interactive (or LARP, if you prefer) for CSE was its usual. How it works is there is a small number of NPCs sitting at tables spread out around a large room (usually 5-8 NPCs, depending on the size.) Those NPCs usually represent certain important factions, royalty, and so on. And they need stuff done and accomplished with the other NPCs there. The problem? They cannot talk to each other, and hence need intermediaries. That is where the PCs come in. PCs usually join the entourage of a particular person, usually when the NPC's interests matches the PC's. What happens next is 4-hours of back-stabbing, diplomacy, lying, cheating, and political maneuvering goodness.

As mentioned earlier, there is something called a 'Battle Interactive' or 'BI'. If you do not know what this is, I hope to describe it well enough to do it justice.

Imagine this, but with 20 more tables in the same room.

It is roughly 10-12 hours of continuous fighting, usually centered around a siege or battle in the over-arcing storyline (hence the name.) It is a desperate fight for survival. Your table is sent on various missions (secure refugees here, destroy siege weapons there, usually lasting about 30 min-1hr) and your success or failure helps determine the success or failure of the entire battle. It is fast-paced and frantic, with people usually taking their actions at the same time while calling out numbers to the GM, who is juggling about 10-30 bad guys on the battlemat. There is a narrative between each missions, describing the ebb and flow of the battle at large and what your actions have done to control said battle.

It's also one of the absolute best parts of my convention experience.

Speaking of the BI, there is a new feature that Arcanis started doing this year, which is handing out patches as a sort of battle trophy. And when I mean patches, I mean the large sew-on/iron-on patches you got when you were in Boy Scouts, with the particular battle you participated in printed on it. While looking quite snazzy, they also have an in-game effect, making them much more valuable.

And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to extend my congratulations to Kitty Curtis for becoming the new Campaign Director for CSE. I'm sure her tenure as the head of this campaign will be an amazing, creative, and exciting one for everyone who loves Arcanis.

Coming Soon!

The Bad, The 'Meh', The Funny, and interviews with Pinnacle Entertainment's Shane Hensley and PCI's Eric Wiener.
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Alpha said...

You two must be quite a team, what with your collective years of experience.

The Angry Lurker said...

Very good post, far better than hubby, good to see you both share the love of the same genre and hobby.

Zombie Ad said...

Cool post Sarah... regular spot in the making? :)

The Happy Whisk said...

Nice to meet you. Very neat that you met through gaming. Tim and I met through writing. Hope to read more from you, Sarah. Happy Gaming.

A Beer for the Shower said...

Wow, quite the gaming jamboree. Looks like you guys had a blast. And I'm glad you were able to find Pitch Black ambrosia along the way. Road tripping calls for excessive amounts of caffeine!

Sarah said...

@Alpha - We have our moments, but usually it's just my husband yelling for a heal. lol

@Angry Lurker - Thank you! I'm not sure our marriage would've happened if he didn't game. It's too much a part of my life.

@Zombie - Thanks! And we'll have to see if my husband can be persuaded. /roll d20

@Happy Whisk - Great to meet the folks that follow this blog. Are you a blogger also?

@Beer - It really is a gaming jamboree. You gotta go there or to GenCon to really appreciate it. Also, if we hadn't found Pitch Black, it wouldn't have been the same. lol

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